Today's first winner: Enviros in Olympia.
During this afternoon's state senate rules committee meeting—this is where the committee chair, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, goes around the table and asks each member to pick a bill that was passed at the committee level to be sent the floor—conservative Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-42, Ferndale) surprised everyone (or at least he surprised Jolt) by picking an environmental (and Democratic) priority: The flame retardant ("toxic toys") bill.
This is a bill that Ericksen dramatically refused to let out of his own environmental committee earlier this year by gaveling down the meeting when a motion was in play for a vote on the bill. Subsequently, the house passed its version of the bill along party lines and sent it to Ericksen's committee. After gutting it—the current bill only limits toxics in kids' toys while leaving out other things like furniture and allows manufacturers to substitute other toxic flame retardants for the ones banned by the bill—Ericksen's committee passed it.
Today, he took the next step and advanced it to the floor. Even passing the senate's watered-down version would send it back to the house, which will have a chance to strengthen it.
Making Ericksen's play to help the Democrats even odder, check out this backstory: Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill) tried to move the very same bill out of the rules committee at last week's meeting in the Lt. Governor's office, but Majority leader Sen. Tom objected, and the motion died.
Ericksen has kept a Democratic priority alive.
Ericksen tells PubliCola he's not nervous about the Democrats taking advantage of the situation. He explains, "the bill we passed out of committee will pass out of the senate." He said the house has a choice: "Do they want to ban these two chemicals or not?"
Today's winner (sorta): Bleu Bistro customers.
After we reported yesterday that Bleu Bistro Grotto on Capitol Hill has been charging customers a surcharge of 1.9 percent, ostensibly to offset the cost of implementing the city's paid sick leave ordinance (which requires employers to provide paid sick leave to employees after their first 240 hours on the job), Bleu Bistro Grotto owner Ross McCartney confirmed that he will stop charging the fee, effective today.
(A Bleu Bistro Grotto customer filed a complaint yesterday with the state attorney general's office, charging that the restaurant was violating state law against deceptive practices by falsely implying the surcharge was a tax.)
McCartney tells PubliCola he removed the charge because some customers perceived it as a political statement against paid sick leave. He said he provides sick leave to employees in the form of paid time off (PTO) for any purpose, which is allowed under the sick leave law. He estimates that paying for sick leave will cost him $8,000 a year, the equivalent of more than 870 minimum-wage hours a year.
Under the sick leave law, restaurant owners, and only restaurant owners, can ask employees to switch shifts with their coworkers when they're sick; workers who switch shifts forfeit their sick leave in proportion to the number of hours they trade off.
So why only "sorta" a win? McCartney also says he plans to raise his prices between 1.5 and 1.7 percent.
Today's third winner: The modern world.
In the age of the Internet and cell phones, it's hard to believe state law has required publishers of white pages residential phone directories to deliver phone books to every household in the state. That was the requirement until today, when the state Utilities and Trade Commission ruled that white-pages publishers now only have to deliver phone books to people who request them.
Additionally, the UTC ruled that white-pages companies must create an opt-out system for people to indicate that they don't want a residential phone book. The change, the UTC estimates, could save 150 tons of paper in Seattle alone.